, , , , , , , , , ,

It is with some dread, or perhaps I should say embarrassment, that I start this day’s blog. But it must be done, and then I can enjoy writing the remaining nine posts.

The day started absolutely fine, in more than one sense. At about 9.30 we were invited up to deck 9 to exchange Christmas greetings with a Hurtigruten sister ship, MS Nordlys, passing in in the other direction. I arrived (it takes time to put the necessary layers of clothing on!) just as the two ships sounded horns at each other, and took this picture once the other had gone well past.

I stayed up on the ‘sundeck’ for a few minutes more. (The snow was cleared in due course.)

Nearing Trondheim, we passed Munkholmen, once a mediaeval monastery.

Going down to deck 4 to meet up with J for our walk around the city, I noticed one of the many screens around the ship. This one is showing a webcam from the bridge, and through the window can be seen the approaching city.

It takes a while to disembark a couple of hundred passengers, not least because each must have his/her digital boarding card beeped – thank goodness. We set off for our walk at about 10.15. The ship was due to leave at 12.45, and we were asked always to be back on board 15 minutes beforehand. Initial briefing had warned that they would not wait for late passengers who would have to make their own way to the next port of call. I warned J that I was always worried about time and would be fretting if we dawdled too much.

We had a town plan with a suggested 5-kilometre walking route, which we decided to take. It would include the cathedral. The first kilometre or so was very slushy underfoot and I cursed the fact that I had not taken my walking pole from my cabin.

Trondheim, once known as Nidaros (it is situated at the mouth of the River Nid) was Norway’s first capital. (Bergen was its second.) It was the country’s ecclesiastical capital for centuries until 1533. Many Viking expeditions had left from here.

The streets were pretty deserted, and nearly all the shops were shut. In Norway, Christmas Eve is the main celebratory day, the Christmas meal being taken that evening.

Olav Trygvesøn, (spelling as on monument, more commonly Tryggveson) king of Norway from 995 to 1000, founder of Trondheim, and seen as an important factor in the conversion of the Norse to Christianity
The spire of the Cathedral can be seen for miles around.
Nidaros Cathedral, the world’s northernmost gothic cathedral

We didn’t have time to go in, and just continued on the route of the walk.

Town bridge over the Nid.
View upstream
And in the other direction. We heard several times that fjords in Norway do not freeze, thanks to the Gulf Stream.

We did have time in hand at the over-halfway point, and stopped at a café for a special Christmas-flavoured coffee. (This was the only time I used cash on the whole trip.) Then we continued on the planned route.

Said by one or other of us in the course of the next hour:

“There are those steps we saw on the way out. We’re only about 15 minutes away now.”

“The front of the station is magnificent, but I don’t remember going past it before.”

“This is good, we should be going over a whole load of railway lines.”

“This crunchy snow is lovely, but it’s a bit worrying, there aren’t many footprints in it.”

“We shouldn’t be going parallel to railway lines, but at an angle to them.”

“Ah, there’s the boat!”

500 metres later:

“We can’t get through, there’s a great fence in the way!”

“Back to the last bridge across the fjord. Crikey, it’s miles away [actually a kilometre].”

1500 metres later:

“Let’s thumb a lift” (Unsuccessful)

500 metres later, I’m really flagging, me to J:

“There’s the boat again, you run on and get them to hold departure.”

J runs on but 300 metres on I think I see him come away and turn aside, he doesn’t hear me when I call, and I’m not sure it’s him. I get to the boat. It’s not ours! It’s Hurtigruten, but MS Richard With (pronounced Rickard Witt, we learned in due course; he was the founder of the line in 1893), and it’s not the setting we had left at 10.15, but a much more industrial area.

I catch up with J to see him on the phone and making marks in the snow. I learn that the boat has phoned him. They haven’t left – phew! He tells me to ring the number he’s written in the snow on my phone – a taxi firm. Fourth time, I manage to get through – recorded voices in Norwegian! The boat listens via his phone what mine is saying and I press the appropriate numbers they tell me and eventually get through to human being who understands English, tell them where we are: “By the Kornsilo building in Trondheim.”

Amazingly the taxi arrives within a very few minutes, and takes us, partly back the way we had come, and then in a completely different direction to what we expected! MS Trollfjord was still there, asking on J’s phone where we were, just as we approached the pedestrian gangway. Best 290 kroners, €28 euros, £25 ever spent on my euros debit card!

The boat left 25 minutes later than scheduled (so we were 40 minutes late). We got a dressing down, from it seems good cop and bad cop. The former said it was not the first time it had happened, and bad cop told us – from the captain! – that the only reason that they had waited for us was that it was Christmas Eve and there was no transport that day – we learned in any case that we would probably have had to fly to a further stop, perhaps after four days! – and that they wouldn’t wait for us should this happen again. There was no chance of their needing to, we assured them!

I was utterly exhausted. In all we had walked/run three kilometres more than we should and I was dropping. J, somewhat younger and in any case much fitter than I, was less so, but just as shaken.

It was lunchtime, 13.30 by now, but I had no appetite. I staggered up to the bistro on the deck 5 and got a coffee, but my hand was shaking so much I couldn’t get down the stairs to my cabin on deck 4 without surely spilling the contents of the mug. Fortunately a member of staff by the stairs took it from my hand so that I could get down safely. I stayed in my cabin until the English-language briefing at 15.00.

A few more times just before due departure times I heard people’s names being called over the intercom, with a request to report to reception. Were they on or off the ship I wonder. There was the occasional further delayed departure, but at the time I made no links, and now make no assumptions…

Excursions team leader Heinz opens the briefing. He did make one or two references to departure having been delayed by a couple of late passengers. Did he know we were present, had he said the same in the previous German-speakers briefing?

We would be crossing the Arctic Circle the following day, and we would be invited up on deck at some point to see this marker – though it would be dark of course.

Indeed, the sun would be ‘up’ for just over an hour at our substantive next port of call – and only this much because we were past the winter solstice. That said, further north, once the sun was always below the horizon, there was a always period of twilight for some time either side of midday. (At Trondheim’s latitude, the sun had been up between 10.03 and 14.33.)

A heavy swell in open sea could be expected that evening from 18.15 for a couple of hours.

The briefing over, Heinz then gave a us a fascinating talk about the age of the Vikings.

During this my whirring brain managed to work out where we had gone wrong. ‘Those steps we saw on the way out’ were not the same as we had passed in the morning, and we had taken a 180 degree wrong turn. Thus the additional 3 kilometres, because a canal obliged us to double back. Indeed when we went back to the bridge to get across it we were again only about 15 minutes from the boat.

There was no expectation of ‘dressing for dinner’ on the voyage, but some, not many, did choose to change. More made the effort for this evening’s celebratory meal, including me. But I had had no idea of what the temperature would be on the boat, and had only put a warm winter dress in my suitcase. Much too hot! (Indeed, until we were quite far north, I found the boat too warm for me, and was glad to be able to regulate my cabin’s temperature.)

We had just sat down at one of the three sittings that evening, when over the loudspeaker we learned that the aurora borealis was on show. Mad dash by many for deck 9, but I went via my room to put on warm outer clothing on over my warm dress, and long boots instead of my flimsy shoes. And then there was of course no question of waiting for the lift so I ran up the five flights of stairs as fast as I could. Once I got there I saw nothing of what I expected, just long wisp of cloud. (As with the wisp in the last photo in my previous post, I suspect that that was indeed the aurora – more in a later post.)

I rejoined my companions who were well into their first course. A non-meat eater, I chose (it was buffet service at this dinner, I’m not sure why) some seafood, and enjoyed it, then started to feel I might be bringing it up again. The combination of the day’s stressful adventure, the mad dash to deck 9, the swell… I excused myself from the table, as I was at clear risk of embarrassing myself (for a second time that day!) and ruining my companions’ meal, and went to lie on my bed, from which point I felt fine. I did not return to table.

I’m pleased to say that the swells did not trouble me in the least in later days, and I learned that I had even slept through a couple of storms!

By the way, I woke up at 01.40 that night, at a stop – and was able to see from the timetable that the ship had caught up with itself.